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Chilling out Saugus's small apes

Gibbons Conservation Center looking for help with water misting system

Posted: August 14, 2013 1:24 p.m.
Updated: August 14, 2013 1:24 p.m.

Neta Ambar, primate keeper and operations and development manager for the Gibbon Center, shows a garden hose mister currently used to create a relaxing and humid environment for gibbons at the center. Signal photo by Jonathan Pobre

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SANTA CLARITA - Forget gorillas. The time has come to put gibbons in the mist.

The Gibbon Conservation Center in Saugus is nearing the end of a fundraising campaign to generate $15,000 to design and install a new water misting system aimed at keeping the primates cool during the sweltering summer months.

“We get up high here, into the 100s, and that’s a little bit too hot and dry for them,” said Neta Ambar, a primate keeper and operations and development manager for the center.

“So what we’re trying to do is make it more hospitable for them by adding these misters that will not only make it cooler, but add some humidity to the area.”

Since the natural habitat for the small endangered apes is Southeast Asia — a region much more humid than Southern California — gibbons at the center in Bouquet Canyon can face heat-related health issues, Ambar said.

A misting system would help keep gibbons’ skin moist and reduce the risk for heat-related illnesses, Ambar said.

The money raised would be enough to design and implement the misting system on one of the center’s enclosures.

Health risks are why the first enclosure to receive the upgrades is the one that houses both the center’s oldest gibbon, 40-year-old Ivan, and its youngest, 1-year-old Goliath.

“We’re hoping that we would have money left over to maybe install a misting system on another enclosure after we finish the first,” Ambar said.

Heat has been a constant concern since the center was founded in 1976, but recent extremes in temperature mean center employees are also planning to install a new heated enclosure that would shield the apes from potentially frigid winter weather and help prevent skin irritation such as cracked fingers or toes.

“Last year we had a day where it got down to 28 degrees,” Ambar said. “So that’s something else we need to prepare for.”

Both the misting and heating systems would be solar powered, Ambar said.

As it stands, the center uses a basic drip system and wets the floors of the enclosures to keep gibbons cool, Ambar said. Enclosures also include doghouses that the gibbons can use to keep warm in the winter.

Though the goal is to raise $15,000 for the project, Ambar said the center will be able to keep any money raised even if the center falls short of its goal.

More than $10,000 has already been pledged for the effort, according to the fundraising website.

“We have very few grants, no government assistance, so mostly it’s private donations and people coming to visit for us to raise money,” Ambar said.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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